High female mortality caused by an atypical Mycobacterium species closely related to the Mycobacterium ulcerans-marinum complex in a colony of bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps).
A commercial breeding colony of bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) experienced an increase in mortality that affected females only. Before death, the animals had lost appetite and weight, were dehydrated, and some had labored breathing. Necropsy revealed granulomas in many organs (ovaries, lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, bone marrow) in which numerous acid-fast bacteria were identified. Bacterial isolation confirmed Mycobacterium spp., which was identified by whole genome sequencing as closely related to the Mycobacterium ulcerans-marinum complex. Due to the zoonotic potential of this bacterium and the poor prognosis for the remaining sick animals, the entire colony was culled and 7 animals were evaluated. The possible routes for introduction of this bacterium, the female predisposition to the disease, as well as the zoonotic potential of this microorganism are discussed. Key clinical message: An atypical Mycobacterium species closely related to Mycobacterium ulcerans-marinum complex can cause high female morality in captive bearded dragons.